Wednesday, January 12, 2022

I Don't Believe in God, I Only Participate in Him

This is a two-part post, in that the first part was incompleted yesterday while the second part was left undone this morning. 

Transform: to change completely or essentially in composition or structure : metamorphose.

The question is, how is this even possible for human beings? You can "transform" yourself from fat to fit, but this isn't a literal transformation. That is, there has been no change to the substance, only to one of its accidents: irrespective of your size, you are nevertheless you, and you've been you since the moment of your conception.

It would seem that most of the things we call "transformation" aren't really so. Reducing a log to ashes in your fireplace is an actual transformation; likewise going from life to death, which represents the adiós of form (AKA soul), precisely. 

But no amount of learning, for example, is a transformation, rather, just an actualization of latent potential. It is change, but not transformation.

Is there a kind of transformational learning? Is there information that results in a literal change? We'll return to the question, but the quick answer is Yes and No. 

The whole premise of psychotherapy is that change is possible, but what kind of change? Analogously, a medical doctor helps us change, but only from unhealthy to healthy. Or vice versa in the case of Dr. Fauci.

A positive change in health presupposes a teleological or homeostatic state of health. The doctor can't change you from one essence to another, which of course goes to the criminal fraud of pretending a medical procedure can achieve sexual transformation, which is strictly impossible.

Back when I was in grad school one of my main influences was a fellow named Bion, who wrote a little book called Transformations, which I haven't looked at since then. 

I wonder what present Bob would think of the book? Let's have a quick peek.  

Ah, it's all coming back to me now. Bion, I think, had a little trick up his sleeve, which he never made explicit. That is, I think the title -- Transformations -- is a kind of meta-commentary on the cryptic nature of his writing, which I believe was intended to provoke a kind of transformation in the reader. In other words, his writing is intended not just to be "informational" but transformational.

Speaking of which, a little secret: this is always the aim of my writing, i.e., to provoke a little transformation in the head. I have never claimed to be a scholar, nor would I waste all this time and space -- we're up to 3,733 posts now -- simply conveying information that is not only readily available elsewhere, but presented in a much less annoying manner.

Here's something from the book: "Eckhart considers Godhead to contain all distinctions as yet undeveloped and to be Darkness and Formlessness. It cannot be the object of Knowledge until there flows out from it Trinity and the Trinity can be known."

So much for Part 1. On to Part 2, in which we hope to get to the point.

Let's begin with a strictly orthoparadoxical coonfession: I do not believe in God. Rather, I only participate in Him.

We all know Augustine's line about "faith seeking understanding." And if you're not familiar with the gag, here's the punchline, courtesy of Professor Wiki:

Fides quaerens intellectum means "faith seeking understanding" or "faith seeking intelligence." It is the theological method stressed by Augustine and Anselm of Canterbury in which one begins with faith in God and on the basis of that faith moves on to further understanding of Christian truth.

Chronologically, faith precedes understanding, like when small children first trust their parents and believe what they state, and it is only later on, when they grow up, that they want to examine and understand the reality by themselves. In the words of Anselm of Canterbury, "I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but rather, I believe in order that I may understand."

But for me and possibly other members of the Vertical Community, it's more the other way around: understanding (or intelligence) seeking faith. In other words, we already know plenty. The head is good to go. Rather, it's the heart that might be a little undernourished, and it is fed from a different source, or at least it requires a more balanced diet.

Along these lines, yesterday I read a book called Salvation: What Every Catholic Should Know. I don't recommend it, because it's pretty basic, but it does at least touch on the vast differences between knowledge, faith, justification, salvation, redemption, and transformation.  

So, when were you saved? For most of my life I never heard that irritating question, since I made it a point to avoid contact with Christians. It was first posed to me around five years ago, but I didn't know quite how to respond, since it's a loaded question and I reject its implicit premise and assumptions.

A more sensible question would be Have you been transformed?, or better yet, How's the transformation going? Any progress today? Only if the transformation attains a certain minimum standard can we start talking about the possibility of "salvation." 

Yes, the transformation isn't possible without Christ, but nor is it possible without our cooperation; he is the necessary condition -- the "without whom" -- but this in no way robs us of our dignity to be sufficient conditions -- the "with whom."  

We might even say that the With Whom is left free to participate in the Without Whom, and in between is the transformation of the former into the latter: as the early fathers said, God becomes man in order for man to become God. But walking on water wasn't built in a day, and while It is accomplished, we aren't unless we are accomplices in the transformation.

9 comments:

julie said...

Really can’t add anything to this, it’s all a big Yes.

EbonyRaptor said...

Maybe each individual's starting point has something to do with believing before understanding versus understanding before believing. I was raised in a Christian home, spent my early school years in Christian schools so I believed before I truly understood. Even when I drifted away in my early adult years and explored other faiths and points of view - I don't think I ever stopped believing - it was more ignoring than unbelief.

I suppose an argument can be made from either side of the coin, but I think there is danger in requiring intellectual understanding in order to have faith. Just my 2 cents.

julie said...

Looking over it again, EbonyRaptor, I think this is the relevant paragraph:

But for me and possibly other members of the Vertical Community, it's more the other way around: understanding (or intelligence) seeking faith. In other words, we already know plenty. The head is good to go. Rather, it's the heart that might be a little undernourished, and it is fed from a different source, or at least it requires a more balanced diet.

As I read it, there is no requirement whatsoever, merely an observation that for some people, that's how it is.

Speaking for myself, I was raised in a culturally Christian home (that is, we went to church on Sundays, because that's What One Did), but neither of my parents at that time could really be said to be believers - or at least, they both harbored a lot of anger at churches and at God - and by the time things fell apart, we hadn't participated in any church in a serious sense in several years. I had faith, but then as I grew older and Knew Everything, I became very jaded.

Eventually, I sought to understand in order to believe, which was how I ended up here.

Pretty funny, actually; I had gone full-on atheist (never go full-on atheist...), when I was having a discussion with an old friend who was a Wiccan. She off-handedly mentioned once that she believed whatever Wiccans are usually into, but that she also believed in the Trinity, which was an odd enough thing to say that I wanted to know more. Not too long after that I came across this weird blog where some psychologist was talking about the Trinity (among other things), then I picked a fight in the comments and ended up on the losing side, and well... anyway.

I've always considered it a sort of spiritual breech birth. Really can't recommend it, but that's not to say it never happens.

EbonyRaptor said...

Julie, I didn't mean to imply that Bob was stating that understanding was a requirement of believing - only that for some it can be a stumbling block to not intellectually understand.

I agree that believing and having a living faith is more a matter of the heart than the head. Complete intellectual understanding is not possible and not really a requirement, whereas believing and having faith is possible and is a requirement.

I had two things happen to me that forever cemented my faith - both of them immediate answers to prayer. Both times were a long time ago (40 and 50 years ago). Both times I was at my wits end and as low as I could go - my only hope was God. I prayed more earnestly than I ever prayed before or since and both times I knew He heard and answered. One time the issue was resolved immediately and the other time I knew beyond a doubt that it would take time but things would be OK. There weren't audible voices or visions or anything crazy like that - but I felt it inside my body - not just in my thoughts/head. There was a visceral reaction within me like my soul had been touched. It's hard to put into words but it has sustained me throughout the rest of my life. I've prayed many times about many things that I cared dearly since then but my prayers have not gotten an immediate response like those two times - it makes me realize that I had to be totally out of hope that I was capable on my own to make things better - that God was my only hope. And He was there for me then.

julie said...

Yes, I've had some similar experiences. It is enough sometimes to look back over those answered prayers to help me when things get challenging.

John Venlet said...

I would agree that at times our intelligence gets in the way of our individual faith and our individual closeness to God. Modifying the line from The Electric Prunes, "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night," maybe I had too much book learnin' to digest the daily bread.

Along those lines, I think of Matthew 18:3-5 wherein The Messiah instructs us to become like little children in our faith, and humble, in order to achieve greatness in heaven. Now that would be transformative!

When I think of The Messiah's admonition of what we could achieve if our faith was the size of a mustard seed, I'm rather chastened, because at times I think an electron microscope would be required just to "see" my faith.

Van Harvey said...

"A more sensible question would be Have you been transformed?, or better yet, How's the transformation going? Any progress today? Only if the transformation attains a certain minimum standard can we start talking about the possibility of "salvation.""

And not to be too threePeaty, but: "How's the transformation going? Any progress today?", is a perfect bullseye on the gong.

Van Harvey said...

Julie "I've always considered it a sort of spiritual breech birth. Really can't recommend it, but that's not to say it never happens."

I resemble that guffawHa as well!

Van Harvey said...

"...become like little children..." The three acts of the mind, are Apprehension, Judgment, and Reasoning. The healthy child performs these acts naturally, as they believe that what they perceive to be is,

""Apprehension is the act of the mind so far as it neither affirms nor denies, but merely places an object before the awareness."

, to which they find themselves making a judgment about it, and then they consider what that means, how it came to be, and pursue other questions in order to better understand what it is and what that means.

The unhealthy adult still has that 'Apprehension, Judgment, and Reasoning' process occurring, but they consciously intrude and corrupt the natural process with artificially pretended doubts - not questions, and not natural doubts(which are unconscious responses to something not adding up), but a deliberate rebellion against the reality of what is, which intends to replace or recreate reality in their own image of what it should be.

The best thinkers are those whose reasoning follows from, and builds upon reality, by continuing to be 'like little children' in an adult way.